by Andrew Walden (originally published Feb 27, 2020.)
Follow the money to find a new direction for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).
Hotels and condos up to the sky at Kaka’ako Makai.
Consider the situation:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ (OHA’s) annual legislative appropriation is on ice after OHA Trustees refused to release executive session minutes to the Hawaii State Auditor.
OHA’s grab for $50M ‘sacred’ Mauna Kea ‘rent’ is stalled after OHA welshed on its previous $1M deal to support telescope construction.
Obviously, OHA’s only choice is to take over the Honolulu County Council.
Perhaps some explanation is in order.
OHA has been lobbying to upzone its Kaka’ako Makai properties to residential since 2014. HCDA and the Legislature have consistently refused the request. (See pg 7)
OHA operative and then-Senator Brickwood "Buzzy" Galuteria pushed a 2014 Kakaako Makai upzone bill while on the payroll of an OHA Trustee's company. Galuteria was booted out of office in 2018 by Kakaako constituents who wanted someone to represent them, not OHA.
But after 40 years under HCDA control, Kaka’ako Makai is set to be transferred back to City jurisdiction. Legislators are directing the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) to shift its focus to the Kapolei area. HCDA, January 14, 2020, sent Legislators a plan for the hand over of Kaka’ako authority.
Discussing the transfer at the January 10, 2020, OHA Resource Management (RM) Committee meeting, HCDA Executive Director Aedward LaBanos, who is also a former OHA COO, tells Trustees: “Its going to be a challenge to the city….there is going to be a lot of work down the road, knowing that it’s not going to happen this year, uh, you do have a new mayor next year and five new council members, so there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty….”
Wake up and smell the lucre.
Two OHA-connected political operatives are stepping up to run for Council:
Since acquiring Kaka'ako Makai in payment of Ceded Lands arrears in 2012, OHA has mostly used the properties as an excuse to shovel millions of dollars to politically connected insiders.
OHA CEO Sylvia Hussey’s report to Trustees at the February 19, 2020, RM meeting shows OHA has wasted $1,969,593.95 on ‘planning’ by the politically connected “WCIT” group since acquiring Kakaako Makai in 2012. Another $150K went to Group 70. In the end, WCIT could not complete its contract, in part because, according to Hussey’s Power Point, “OHA has not decided on what they want to do, so useful Design Guidelines cannot be established.”
The timeline is a litany of white collar make-work contracts which in the end produced nothing – except alleged kickbacks.
Highlights of OHA’s eight-years with WCIT include:
2014 “Legislature denies OHA’s residential use request.”
2016: OHA supplemental WCIT Contract (total contact value $2.925M)
2017: “OHA denied by HCDA to be EIS Accepting Authority” (Yes, OHA wants to oversee its own EIS.)
2018: “Master Plan Contract Expires (incomplete)”
2018: “Plans not finalized”
2018: “Design guidelines not completed”
2018: “EIS and SMA not completed”
2018: “Approx $1M of contract unspent”
2019: “Commercial property manager leaves”
But according to Hussey’s report, that’s all going to change now.
What would OHA do with a pliable Honolulu Council and Mayor?
Hussey presents a “Proposed Land Use by Parcel” (pg 52)
- Lot A 4.394 ac.: “Will need to get a zoning variance for hotel.”
- Lot E 2.2 Ac.: “Dependent on transfer of regulatory authority from HCDA to City. Anticipate residential to be allowed.”
- Lots F/G 7.531 ac.: “Will need to get a zoning variance for hotel.”
- Lot I 3.256 ac.: “Potential sale to City for a sewer pump.”
- Lot L 5.266 ac.: “Dependent on termination of Next Steps (homeless) shelter lease.”
- Lots E, F, G and I have a 200’ height limit. OHA operatives have lobbied for 400’.
- The four-story AFES building on Lot E would be demolished for “OHA HQ/residential.”
Not mentioned in Hussey’s Plan: Relocating OHA HQ could make it possible for OHA to redevelop the Gentry Pacific site it acquired in 2012.
Other ideas tossed around at the January 10, 2020, OHA RM Committee meeting:
“… a tax-free zone or other kine of entitlements that other Native American similar OHA type entities have negotiated ….” --Aedward Los Banos (pg 125)
“ … I just got back from Vegas and the Native Indians…new marketplace owned by the Native Plains Tribe two blocks from California Hotel. They make $800 million a year. Its a medical marijuana building….” -- Trustee Lei Ahu Isa (pg 126)